Raiders earn fifth seed, face Jordan in subsection opener

Central setter Natalie Stockman dove to keep this play alive during a recent match. Photo by Paul Downer

Central’s 3-0 home loss to Jordan on Tuesday, Oct. 16 was both the regular season finale and a preview of what awaits the Raiders in the first round of subsection play.

The Raiders finished their regular season with a 12-11 record and, after securing the No. 5 seed in the subsection bracket, will face Jordan again in the first round of the playoffs this Thursday, Oct. 25. Jordan is the No. 4 seed, and will have home court advantage after going 2-0 against the Raiders earlier this season.

“In a weird way I’m OK going into the playoffs 0-2 against this team because we’ve got nothing to lose and the kids can just relax and play,” said Raiders head coach Sarah Hammers.

Hammers was disappointed in the way her team finished the season, however, backing into the playoffs with three straight losses down the stretch. In the final game against Jordan, for example, a number of mistakes resurfaced that Hammers hadn’t seen since the beginning of the season.

“In games 1 and 2 we hit negative. We haven’t done that in so long, it’s frustrating,” she said. “We made so many errors. As a team we hit zero, 24 kills and 24 errors. We haven’t done that since the beginning of the season. So I wasn’t happy with our hitting and I definitely wasn’t happy with our serve receive. We’ve worked on that forever. We have to step it up. We know who we’re going to be playing. We just need to perform and do the little things.”

The Raiders lost those first two games by 25-21 and 25-15 scores, and the match ended in a sweep after a 25-20 third set.

Nicole Miller was Central’s top offensive threat with nine kills and a serving ace, and Miller also had 10 digs.

Lexi Erpenbach had six kills and six digs, and Brooke Willemsen and Sami Jo Brinkmann each notched four kills.

Natalie Stockman had 13 assists with 10 digs, and Kaylie Brazil led the defense with 20 digs.

“When we executed the game plan, we did great and scored, when we served where we were supposed to and hit where we were supposed to. But we’ve got to execute at the end of the season,” said Hammers. “We can play with them when we do the game plan. But that takes a certain consistency that we don’t have yet.”

Still, Hammers said the Raiders have a legitimate chance of advancing beyond the quarterfinals.

“It’s No. 4 and 5, so there’s a pretty good shot. It could go either way,” she said. “They’ve beaten us twice, but we have to see how we’re going to perform.”